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myth has two versions, in one of which the people of the First Age had human forms but an animal nature, and took the animal guise before the real men appeared; in the other, which is of the southwest, the first people had bestial forms but a human nature, and presently laid aside their animal masks. In the latter version there was an Amazonian phase in the ascent of the primitive people. Their women seceded from society and lived with a water monster. Hunger drove them back, but they brought into the world a number of prodigious beings whom their lords had to destroy.
In the First People who had the human form but became animals the Eastern Algonquins and the Pacific tribes have a myth which ranks beside the Greek myth of the Titans that were before Zeus, and the myths of the Golden Age. Its quality is at once haunting and challenging, the more so because these dawn-folk are nowhere described. “In old times,” a Micmac Indian told Leland, “men were as animals and animals as men; how this was no one knows. But it is told that all were at first men, and as they gave themselves up to this and that desire, and to naught else, they became beasts. But before this came to pass, they could change to one or the other form; yet even as men there was always something which showed what they were.”
The story cycle of the Mewan Indians of California pictured the First People as living in great ceremonial houses and engaging in such cosmic adventures as sun-capture, fire-theft, and warfare against stone giants. How nearly human and how much animal they were the Western Indians left in doubt. When they became animals and went forth from the ceremonial house, they carried to their future haunts not only their old names, but their distinctive traits, such as Grizzly Bear's appetite for acorns, Frog's aptitude at water jumps and the clamorous voice of Sand. hill Crane. After the transformation was effected—and only casual reasons for it are suggested—man was created. Coyote made him out of feathers, or sticks, or clay, and Lizard gave him five fingers because he had five himself and knew their value. In Popol Vuh, the Guatemalan saga, the First People were manikins that the gods carved out of wood and endowed with life; but so frivolous and irreverent were these that a flood was invoked to destroy them; “the little monkeys that live in the woods” are descended from survivors.
All over North America were stories of stone giants, and crudely archaic as are these stalking figures of legend, the myth has the elemental vigor of Norse epic. According to the Iroquois, a cannibal race—“stonish giants,” Schoolcraft calls them—who made their bodies hard by rolling in sand, overran America seventeen centuries ago, and nearly exterminated the natives. The Holder of the Heavens took giant form in order to destroy them. These are the icy-hearted Chenoos of Algonquin story who lived in northern Canada; in summer they rubbed themselves with fir balsam and rolled on the ground so that moss, leaves, and twigs adhered to them. The California Indians have tales of a cannibal rock-giant who went abroad with a rock basket on his back into which he tossed people. There was another stony Titan, tall as a pine tree but vulnerable under the heel. Only after the First People had killed him by planting sharp sticks in his path did they elect to become animals. The theory that these clanking folk typify mountains is not convincing.
Maundeville has a tale of a bodiless head, but North America is the true home of this weird legend. Glooskap, culture hero of the Eastern Algonquins, played at ball with a snapping skull. There were Indians who went all to pieces leaving only the head, which ate the other members. Everywhere stories were told of heads that pursued people and devoured them. The skull of a mother chased her children over hill and plain. In nightmare flight the heroes of Indian epic cast obstacles or attractive things behind them to delay or divert the rolling skull. Reading a new meaning into the legend, the Arapahoes used it to explain the railroad.
A Sioux story describes a duel between the Monster and the Bladder, twin sons of the Turtle. They kept striking off each other's heads, and these flew into the sky and, falling back, adhered again to their necks. But at length Bladder pushed Monster's body aside, and the head rebounded, and to this day it rebounds, for it is the sun, and Bladder is the sky; but only to old men or wise is this part of the story told. It may be that these tales derive from the conception of the sun and moon as traveling heads, or from the use of a skull as tribal medicine, or from the war custom of decapitation later supplanted by scalping, or even from the appearance of the tumbleweed of the western prairies, which wanders like a ball before the autumn wind.
The tail is a symbol of the animal nature. Stories of tailed humans are found all over the world. They signify a belief that certain races of men are descended from the apes, or that the apes are descended from certain races of men. Both beliefs have been stressed in the modern debate on evolution; yet neither is new. They are almost the oldest of the philosophical myths. They trace back to primitive animism—to the notion that animals are endowed with human intelligence, can understand the speech of men, and may well be propitiated with worship. Early man accepted them as cousins. He could change natures with them, and sometimes it seemed to him he did. Père Lafitau said of his American flock, “These men are living in Ovid's Metamorphoses.”
Sometimes men were content enough with this kinship, erecting it into totemism, wearing the ta'il of the buffalo or horse as an emblem of power. Sometimes they were ashamed of it. They plucked off all hair from their bodies, because animals were hairy, and resented it when their women bore them twins, because the young of animals came in litters instead of singly. Constantly they confused brute and human nature, using identical terms of neighbor folk, whether these were apes or men. The confusion was carried over into literature. One African tribe was said to have an ape king. There are passages in which travelers seem to themselves to be speaking of men while to their readers it is evident they are speaking of monkeys. There are other passages in which they set out to describe monkeys, yet draw pictures of men like themselves, but of more primitive cast. The creatures called satyrs embody this confusion and the sense of kinship behind it.
According to Isidore, the satyrs have done something to make their own nature clear. One of them, he says, appearing to St. Anthony in the desert, explained, “I am mortal, one of the
inhabitants of the waste, whom the heathen, misled by error, worship as the Fauns and Satyrs.” He pictures them as manikins witn upturned noses, horns on their foreheads, and goat feet.
The heathen world, however, never was quite sure what it meant by the satyrs. If it be true that the fable began with ritual mummers who donned the nature of fertility dæmons when they put on the heads of asses, horses, or goats, and danced in them -as men still do—the memory of this was forgotten. The satyrs were supposed to be spirits, half human, half bestial, that haunted woodland and mountain side and fellowshipped with Pan and Dionysus. They had bristly hair, flat noses, and pointed ears, with two small horns, and a tail like that of a horse or goat. Earlier Greek art represented them as ugly, withered, and ape-like. But Attic sculpture in the time of Praxiteles shows them with the beast nature well-nigh submerged-graceful fig. ures instinct with poetry. They took over the attributes of the kindred sileni, and as Roman influence grew they were confounded with the fauns and were depicted as half men and half goats. In Scripture they are the "hairy ones” of Hebrew folklore, a sort of demon of waste places. So is the word intended in the prophecy of Isaiah as to Babylon: "Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there."
Satyrs, as the ancients conceived them, were a wanton, musicloving, merry-hearted and yet timid folk, their symbol the hare. They roved about, drinking, dancing to the pipe and cymbal, pursuing the nymphs, killing the cattle of men and making love to their women. Men feared them, as embodying the loneliness of waste places, feared them with the sudden panic fear, which the apparition of their leader, the leering goat-god, always excited. Equally, the shy creatures feared men, but not women. Gradually these timid spirits moved out of mythology into geography. There were satyr isles, and there were satyr tribes in distant mountains and deserts, alike in Africa, India, and the spaces of the sea. Always they were described as avoiding contact with men, screening themselves in the thickets and seen only from afar. The satyrs of western Africa, says Pliny, “beyond